English language

Philology: Introduction to the Significance of Language Analysis

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When you first enter an ancient history or archaeology degree you are introduced to several sets of material evidence. Notably, the archaeology, material evidence, and philological evidence. But the philological side is more often than not rarely mentioned again. This is quite a shame considering some of the most interesting and revealing information comes from the ancient written sources. People generally fall into the trap of ignoring the writing in favour of the archaeology and artefacts and frankly you can’t really blame them because humans are naturally attracted to pretty visual things. I see this every day with the likes and shares on my Facebook page. But philology is all important too and if students can learn even a little about ancient writing and textual criticism, a whole new side to history and analysis opens up to them as it should.

DSCN0428BB - Clay Tablets with Liner B Script
DSCN0428BB – Clay Tablets with Liner B Script (Photo credit: archer10 (Dennis))

Philology is derived from the Greek terms φίλος (love) and λόγος (word, reason) and literally means a ‘love of words’. It is the study of language in literary sources and is a combination of literary studies, history and linguistics. Philology is generally associated with Greek and Classical Latin, in which it is termed philologia. The study of philology originated in European Renaissance Humanism in regards to Classical Philology but this has since been combined to include in its definition the study of both European and non-European languages. The idea of philology has been carried through the Greek and Latin literature into the English language around the sixteenth century through the French term philologie meaning also a ‘love of literature’ from the same word roots.

Generally philology has a focus on historical development. It helps establish the authenticity of literary texts and their original form and with this the determination of their meaning. It is a branch of knowledge that deals with the structure, historical development and relationships of a language or languages. This makes it all the more significant to study as language is one of the main building blocks of civilisation.

There are several branches of philological studies that can also be undertaken:

Comparative philology is a branch of philology which analyses the relationship or correspondences between languages. For instance, the commonalities between Latin and Etruscan or further flung languages of Asian or African provinces. It uses pre-determined techniques to discover whether languages hold common ancestors or influences. It uses comparison of grammar and spelling which was first deemed useful in the 19th century and has developed ever since. The study of comparative philology was originally defined by Sir William Jones‘ discovery in 1786 that Sanskrit was related to Greek and German as well as Latin.

Cognitive philology studies written and oral texts in consideration of the human mental processes. It uses science to compare the results of research using psychological and artificial systems.

Reconstruction of the missing Greek text on th...
Reconstruction of the missing Greek text on the Rosetta Stone

Decipherment is another branch of philology which looks at resurrecting dead languages and previously unread texts such as done and achieved by Jean-Francois Champollion in the decipherment of Hieroglyphs with the use of the Rosetta Stone. And more recently by Michael Ventris in the decipherment of Linear B. Decipherment would be key to the understanding of still little understood languages such as Linear A. Decipherment uses known languages, grammatical tools and vocabulary to find and apply comparisons within an unread text. By doing so more of the text can be read gradually as similarities and grammatical forms become better understood. The remaining text can then be filled in through further comparison, analysis, and elimination of incorrect solutions.

Textual philology editing is yet another branch of philology with includes the study of texts and their history in a sense including textual criticism. This branch was created in relation to the long traditions of Biblical studies; in particular with the variations of manuscripts. It looks at the authorship, date and provenance of the text to place it in its historical context and to produce ‘critical editions’ of the texts.

Significant Examples:

The importance of philology is exhibited in its use and achievements. Without philology the bible translation would be even more wrong, trust me read it in the original Greek. We would not be able to translate hieroglyphs, Linear B, Linear A, Sanskrit, any ancient language. Our entire written past would be blank, we would not have the information we have now on mathematics, social structure, philosophy, science, medicine, civilisation, transport, engineering, marketing, accounting, well anything really, knowledge would not have been rediscovered or passed on without the ability to study texts and language. Understand the love of words.

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Important Rules to Remember When Learning Ancient Greek Part 3!

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Well followers, with the success of parts one and two of my Important Rules Series I give you part three!

This post will look at the most important things to remember when learning about the Greek personal pronouns, the perfect and pluperfect tenses and a few significant verbs to remember when reading ancient and New Testament Greek. For Parts one and two of the series, click on the links below before reading this post. Enjoy 🙂

Important Rules to Remember When Learning Ancient Greek Part 1

Important Rules to Remember When Learning Ancient Greek Part 2

The Greek Personal Pronouns

  • The pronoun stands in the place of a person
  • Pronouns occur in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd person
  • Declension of the personal pronoun of the first person
    • No vocative in the first person pronouns (remember that the vocative case is used in a noun that identifies a person being addressed)
    • ἐμοῦ (genitive singular), ἐμοί (dative singular), and ἐμέ (accusative singular) are used to express emphasis
    • μοῦ, μοί, μέ are enclitics throwing the accent of the pronoun onto the preceding word
    • Enclitics used when there is no particular emphasis on the pronouns
  • Declension of the personal pronoun of the second person
    • Vocative the same as nominative
    • σου, σοι, σε are enclitic, except when used emphatically
    • Watch similarity of ἡμεῖς and ὑμεῖς
  • Declension of the personal pronoun of the third person
    • Declension the same as ἁγαθός
    • Except for the neuter nominative/accusative singular form αὐτό

Personal Pronouns (First and Second Person)

1st person 1st person unemphatic 2nd person 2nd person unemphatic
sing. nom. ἐγώ σύ
gen. ἐμοῦ μου σοῦ σου
dat. ἐμοί μοι σοί σοι
acc. ἐμέ με σέ σε
pl. nom. ἡμεῖς ὑμεῖς
gen. ἡμῶν ὑμῶν
dat. ἡμῖν ὑμῖν
acc. ἡμᾶς ὑμᾶς

αὐτός: Third Person Pronoun (oblique cases only) and Intensive Pronoun

masc. fem. neuter
sing. nom. αὐτός αὐτή αὐτό
gen. αὐτοῦ αὐτῆς αὐτοῦ
dat. αὐτῷ αὐτῇ αὐτῷ
acc. αὐτόν αὐτήν αὐτό
pl. nom. αὐτοί αὐταί αὐτά
gen. αὐτῶν αὐτῶν αὐτῶν
dat. αὐτοῖς αὐταῖς αὐτοῖς
acc. αὐτούς αὐτάς αὐτά

Characteristics of Personal Pronouns

  • Used in place of nouns and other substantives in order to avoid monotony
  • The noun for ehivh s pronoun is called an ANTECEDENT
    • Agrees with its antecedent in gender and number
    • Personal pronouns are used in the nominative case only when emphasis is intended
    • The genitive case is frequently used to express possession
    • The emphatic forms of the personal pronouns are normally used after prepositions

Special Uses of AUTOS (αὐτός)

  • Two special uses:
  • When used with an article in the attributive positive it means the SAME = ADJECTIVAL AUTOS
  • When used without an article in the predicate position = SELF = INTENSIVE AUTOS

Intensive AUTOS may also be used with other pronouns or with the unexpressed subject of the verb

The perfect active indicative of LUW (λύω = to loose)

  • The fourth principal part = PERFECT ACTIVE
  • From this are obtained the forms of the perfect, pluperfect, and future tenses of the verb
  • Obtained by:
    • Affixing the perfective aspect morpheme KA
    • Attaching the secondary active suffixes
    • Prefixing a reduplicated syllable to beginning = consonant of start plus epsilon E
    • Exceptions derive from the phonetic characteristics of the initial phoneme of the verb
      • If start with  PHI, THETA or CHI = TAU start
      • If start with PSI, ZETA or XI or Two Consonants except LAMBDA or RHO = EPSILON start
      • If start with with VOWEL = Temporal Augment EPSILON

Second perfects

  • Some verbs do not contain the KAPPA
  • Conjugated exactly like the first perfects except without the Kappa
  • Distinction is one of form only and not of function

The significance of the perfect tense

  • State resulting from a completed action
  • Temporal focus more on the present than on the past
  • Choice of use not necessarily determined by the objective facts
  • Choice by the writer’s point of view of the action
  • Significance must be determined by the context

The pluperfect active indicative of LUW

  • Represents the past tense of the perfect
  • Has an augment in addition to the reduplication
  • EI as connecting vowels
  • Augment often omitted
  • Pluperfect seldom seen in New Testament
  • Future perfect tense even rarer – expresses the perfective aspect in future time

The verb OIDA (οἶδα = to know)

  • Synonym of γινώσκω (to know or perceive)
  • Has only perfect and pluperfect forms
  • Used with present and past meanings also
  • Regarded as a present tense verb
  • ᾔδειν is an imperfect tense verb (pluperfect indicative active 1st person)

Resources that may help you further:

Perseus Vocabulary Tools

New Testament Greek Grammar Books

Learn to Read New Testament Greek, Third Edition, By: David Alan Black

Little Greek 101

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